The death knell may have sounded today for the Volvo Ocean Race as the premier fully crewed round the world race

The death knell may have sounded today for the Volvo Ocean Race as the premier fully crewed round the world race.

At a press conference at the Paris Boat Show this morning which was more like a ‘who’s who’ of ocean racing, The Race organiser Bruno Peyron announced not just the next edition of his non-stop event – The Race 2004 – but, more ambitious by far, The Race Tour – a round the world race with stops, to be run every four years from 2006.

The timing will conflict with the next Volvo Ocean Race, the future of which has been in the doldrums. Peyron’s new event is aimed at capitalising on this by siphoning off interest from top sailors and syndicates. Peyron announced that a number have already confirmed serious interest in taking part; a fact reiterated by Roger Nilson (navigator aboard the VOR yacht, Amer Sports One) – he has been coordinating a band of fellow sailors who would prefer to do The Race Tour rather than the VOR. They include prime movers such as Grant Dalton, Paul Cayard, Ross Field, John Kostecki, Neal McDonald and Guillermo Aitadill.

“These people would like to see a round the world race with multihulls, fully crewed and with stops,” said Nilson.

The route of The Race Tour is not yet settled but it will start in Marseille, go through south-east Asia with possible stops in Singapore and Shanghai, to Japan, San Francisco, round Cape Horn to New York and across the Atlantic to a finish ‘at a Scandinavian port’.

The idea, says Bruno Peyron, is “to reduce the number of legs and to cut down on investment but open up new markets in south-east Asia.” He added that the course also includes two historically important record courses: San Francisco to New York and New York to the Lizard.

The Race Tour is intended to be all-embracing and will have several classes, including an open class for maxi-multihulls and another for maxi-monohulls from 28-45m.

But the most exciting departure is a multihull one-design class especially for the event. “It will be an 80ft one-design,” added Peyron, “the same as the first Explorer [the catamaran in which he established the first Jules Verne record] and able to race over 35 knots.”

Already working on the design is a team which comprises every major multihull designer working today: Gilles Ollier, Marc Van Peteghem, Vincent Lauriot Prévost, Marc Lombard and Nigel Irens. “We are not sure we will succeed to work as a group but that’s what we’re trying to do. But the boat will exist in 18 months,” said Peyron, adding that he expects between six to nine boats for the first event.

Another new boat is currently building, probably also at Gilles Ollier’s Multiplast yard in Vannes, is Bruno Peyron’s own new multihull for The Race in 2004. This is rumoured to be about 120ft LOA, on the scale of the powerful PlayStation rather than Club Med, but he has not announced whether it’s a catamaran or a trimaran.

His new boat and Olivier de Kersauson’s trimaran Geronimo will be the only new boats in The Race in 2004. As for the other competitors who might take part: “They might have new names but we know them all. There will be no surprises.” Peyron said.